POSTSCRIPT / October 1, 2013 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Noy must reject his pork to quell unrest

OBAMA TALKS: Did Manila diplomats wink or wince when a Malacañang media factotum announced the other day that President Noynoy Aquino and US President Barack Obama will discuss security in light of the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China during the latter’s Oct. 11-12 visit?

Was there agreement with the American embassy to announce what the US President intends to take up? Or was it Malacañang’s intention to box in Obama into making security assurances in relation to China?

Assuming the proposed agenda actually include security and China issues, it may be indelicate – if not outright provocative — to announce unilaterally or hint that Obama would discuss maritime security in the context of China’s aggressiveness in the region.

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STIMULUS DAW: The scandal over the wanton hijacking of billions in public funds passing through Malacañang has blown to smithereens the vaunted “tuwid na daan” (straight path) anti-corruption slogan of the Aquino administration.

The storm over the plunder of the Priority Development Assistance Fund has not subsided when a bigger disturbance broke out over the release of P1.1 billion in Malacañang “stimulus” funds to senators who had voted to convict and expel then Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.

It is anybody’s guess what other lump sums hidden in the budget are being used or will be tapped by President Aquino to corrupt and thereby control senators, congressmen and—who knows – other Very Important Persons whose cooperation the Palace needs.

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CIVIL STRIFE?: If Mr. Aquino does not act fast to restore our moral compass and lead us out of the morass, someone else might just do it.

The usual sloganeering and distractions being re-used by the propaganda strategists around the President will not quell the unrest.

In critical times like this, some unheralded leader could emerge and try setting things right. But with conflicting vested groups moving to tighten their hold on power, such a clashing rush to the center could be bloody.

There are already some people citing history, reminding us that for a real deep-cleansing to carry this nation to a new era, blood must be spilled as in a civil war or such civil strife. God forbid!

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ACT DECISIVELY, SIR!: A smooth, orderly reformation is better carried out by those democratically installed in office and who had validated their election by commendable public service recognized by a trusting public.

(We are glossing, meanwhile, over the objections of sectors questioning past automated elections illegally managed by a foreign entity [Smartmatic] that, in connivance with a transactional Commission on Elections, brushed aside safeguards required by law.

(Actually I am inclined to agree with these groups, but I fear the consequences of sweeping away all the winners of elections that could be void ab initio or from the very start.)

Before all is lost, we ask Mr. Aquino to move decisively while still enjoying, according to friendly survey firms, a modicum of public support.

What to do? He is the President, he would/should know.

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HIDDEN PORK: But one thing he could do, for starters, is renounce the pork barrel in all its mutations and manifestations, including LUMP SUM DISCRETIONARY FUNDS, amounting to close to one trillion pesos, in the Office of the President.

Pork is not all in the PDAF, the feeding trough of senators and congressmen. It is hidden in and out of the budget, including the President’s Social Fund that he refuses to surrender to the Treasury — despite its being public funds — for inclusion in the regular budgeting process.

Just last week, we were surprised by revelations that there is another barrel aside from the Special Purpose Fund where presidential pork is hidden. This is the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Malacañang explained that the DAP, which it invented in 2011, was meant to inject more funds into the money stream and thereby spur development.

But how will the DAP stimulate the economy when much of it is just pocketed by some pork-addicted recipients?

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RENOUNCE ALL PORK: Who knows, there may be more pork, including accumulated savings, hidden under secret titles. On his own, in goodwill, the President should come clean and renounce them all.

By “renounce”, we mean the money can be realigned to specific line items directly under the proper agencies responsible for their use — beyond the reach of legislators who should concentrate on their job of making laws, not hay.

It is amazing that most legislators resist their own liberation from the control of the Executive. If they had their way, they would keep themselves shackled to the golden pork barrel chain that the President uses to manipulate the Congress.

While the House, for instance, gave up last Saturday their notorious P25-billion PDAF, they did not touch a single centavo in the one-trillion-peso presidential pork. Porky hope springs eternal?

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SUBSERVIENT SENATE: Senate President Franklin Drilon is another confused politician. He would rather follow the “Don’t you do it!” advice of the Ombudsman than assert the power of the Senate to summon businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to shed light on her pork barrel operations.

Obviously, Drilon is afraid that Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the PDAF and other fund scams, may just talk during the Senate inquiry and implicate more officials, including bigwigs of the Liberal Party administration.

That is another Drilon dilemma. The No 3 official of the land would rather protect his party mates than act in the higher interest of the public. The Senate should let Napoles spill it all out.

The Palace has admitted that the DAP was the source of the mostly P50 million for each senator who voted to convict and expel Corona. (But Drilon and then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile – also Sen. Francis Escudero — got double that amount.)

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 1, 2013)

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